Aug. 18, 2011
In just a few years, Invest in America (IIA) has made a notable impact on the credit union industry. Whether it is raising awareness of the benefits of credit union membership, providing consumers with discounts, supporting credit unions with a program designed to increase member loyalty, or funding financial literacy initiatives such as Biz Kid$, IIA has proven to be a unique and beneficial credit union program. In recognition of this innovation and its positive effects on the credit union industry, the National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF) announced Invest in America as the winner of the 2012 Herb Wegner Memorial Award for Outstanding Program.
IIA will be one of three recipients of Herb Wegner Memorial Awards at a special dinner hosted by NCUF at the Grand Hyatt Washington on March 19, 2012—a Monday night during the Credit Union National Association’s 2012 Governmental Affairs Conference. Online registration for dinner tickets will be available later this year on the NCUF website.
“Rarely has the Awards and Nominating Committee collective scored a program so high,” NCUF Awards & Recognition Committee Chairman Bob Schumacher said. “When you look at the numbers that support Invest in America’s efforts, the outcome is so overwhelming, it’s hard to grasp or comprehend all its immensity.”
By participating in Invest in America, members save money on everyday purchases; credit unions increase loans, income and member loyalty; and credit unions and their members simultaneously support American companies. Invest in America was first started in late 2008 by CUcorp, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Michigan Credit Union League, which later became CU Solutions Group, a national marketing company that currently manages the program. Through IIA, credit unions banded together to promote and support not only their own products and services, but also those offered by collaborative American-based companies, such as General Motors (GM) or Sprint. The companies offered discounts to credit union members, which in turn served as a catalyst for membership growth and loyalty. Invest in America has since grown to also become an enhancement program, helping credit unions to add vehicle loans, increase debit- and credit-card transactions and balances and provide non-interest income opportunities. Nearly 3,000 credit unions nationwide, representing over 70% of credit union members, now support Invest in America.
“The Invest in America program has captured what it truly means to be an American credit union member,” Senior Vice President at the Arizona Credit Union League & Affiliates Michael Atchison said. “During these difficult times, working together and supporting not only each other, but also the businesses that provide made-in-America products and services, helps us all. This program is the solution that unites these businesses and the credit union members.”
IIA’s Big Ticket program is focused on driving new membership and increasing vehicle loan volume. The partnership with U.S.-based companies such as GM also helps bring credit union members significant savings on new vehicles. Through April 2011, over 400,000 vehicles had been sold, generating an estimated $6.4 billion in credit union vehicle loans. In 2009, the Credit Union Journal named the Invest in America program the “Innovation of the Year” citing the number of car sales generated through the program as one reason for the award.
The National Sprint discount program from IIA saves credit union members on wireless services through lower monthly bills, waived fees, and discounts on products and accessories. As part of the unique partnership between Sprint, credit unions receive non-interest income to support their marketing expenses.
Another IIA program, Membership Rewards, is designed to increase credit unions’ card transactions and balances by providing discounts on products and services members use every day. Partners in this program include well-known brand names such as Allied Van Lines, FTD, DIRECTV, and a new web-based mall exclusively for credit union members called Shop America. In January 2011, CU Growth Solutions purchased CUTS Performance Marketing, adding discounts on TurboTax to the mix.
“Our members benefit from the program, as does our credit union,” said Anthony M. Carnarvon, President/CEO of Co-op Services Credit Union in Livonia, Mich. “IIA provides a unique opportunity for us to remind our members of our great service and low rates. Combining the GM discount with credit unions’ historically low interest rates means that the member saves even more and increases auto loans for the credit union.”
Launching and supporting various programs can be very difficult for credit unions, since marketing efforts can be expensive and labor intensive. In order to make marketing the Invest in America program as easy as possible for credit unions, the IIA team has created complete marketing campaigns for all three programs. All the campaigns have energetic graphics and images combined with compelling copy to help pique current and potential members’ interest in the discounts. These campaigns allow credit unions to proactively tailor their marketing efforts to their own specific needs.
“With the addition of Sprint and the income opportunities with that, as well as all the offers of the Member Rewards program, we can truly help our members save on almost everything they need,” said Pamela Stephens, President/CEO of Security One FCU in Arlington, Texas. “Combined with the marketing materials that are available to online, CU Solutions Group has made this a turnkey member enhancement program.”
The industry as a whole has also benefited from the positive press generated by the program. Invest in America is primarily marketed to members through the website www.lovemycreditunion.org, which serves a dual purpose by supporting the Invest in America program and serving as an important tool to educate consumers. The site averages about 26 million visitors annually.
Invest in America is also one of the largest independent sponsors of Biz Kid$, alongside NCUF. Biz Kid$ is the Emmy Award-winning and credit union-funded public television series that teaches kids about money management and entrepreneurship.
“IIA’s commitment to the Biz Kid$ program is truly exceptional and deserving of recognition by the National Credit Union Foundation,” writes RoxAnne Kruger, Executive Director of the Northwest Credit Union Association. “IIA and its staff were quick to realize the value of Biz Kid$—itself a winner of the Herb Wegner Award in 2010—and stepped forward with a multi-year, multi-million-dollar commitment when the show was forced into a production hiatus. This was a truly exceptional move, and one that laid the undergirding for Biz Kid$ to transition to the national level.”
The Herb Wegner Memorial Awards are named in honor of the late Credit Union National Association CEO Herb Wegner, whose tireless dedication, innovative ideas and deeds truly revolutionized the ways that credit unions serve their communities. The awards that bear Wegner’s name recognize his spirit of “innovative, creative, risk-taking” leadership.
Questions or Concerns? Contact the Anthem Editor: Editor@nwcua.org.